What is Chronic Pain?

Throughout a lifetime, everyone will experience some sort of pain. Whether it is from cutting yourself with a knife, standing on a lego brick or you rolled your ankle playing sport. Usually, though, they can be classed as acute pain. Acute pain lasts for a week or even a month, but then it is gone. When we are in pain, the injured area sends signals to the brain via the spinal cord. The signals, and therefore the pain, generally get less as the injuring heals.

Chronic pain, however, is different, chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts at least 12 weeks. In some cases, it can last years. An initial injury can lead to chronic pain, but it can also be present even when a significant initial injury cannot be found. The exact cause of chronic pain is still not truly known but some believe that it stems from nerve damage. With chronic pain, the body continues to send signals to the brain even after the injury has healed.

An estimated 3.37 million people suffer from chronic pain in Australia and a staggering 68% of those are of working age. It can have a negative effect on muscle strength, endurance and mobility. This can then have an impact on what activities you can complete. This includes the amount and type of work that you do as well as the exercise you can undertake. Many people with chronic pain, try and avoid any exercise/activities they believe will flare up their pain. But is avoiding activities/exercise actually the right thing to do

How can exercise help?

When it comes to managing your pain, it must be remembered that not all pain will go away and exercise. It is only part of the treatment and management so please, if you already have one, stick to your pain management program for your pain relief medication. If you do not have one and are suffering from chronic pain, please speak to your doctor before undertaking an exercise program.

There are numerous studies that show that exercise is an essential part of the treatment of chronic pain. They have shown that exercise can be effective in reversing the downward cycle of deconditioning and worsening pain. Over time, exercise can help those with chronic pain increase the activities or exercise they complete and improve their ability to perform activities of daily living.

It is important to consider the amount and type of exercise you perform. There are 3 main types of exercise people with chronic pain should perform:

Strength exercise- strength exercises are important to build muscle strength and endurance, as this helps to take the load off our joints and makes it easier to move around.

Stretching exercise– stretching is important to help increase flexibility, improve mobility, relieve tight/stiff joint or muscles and to increase range of motion. Ultimately, this will help improve your ability to perform everyday movements/activities.

Cardiovascular Exercise- as well as benefits for chronic pain which include the ability to stay loose and mobile, cardiovascular exercise also has benefits on heart and lung function and can also help to improve mood.

A few final tips

Exercise is Medicine and is an important daily strategy used to manage your pain levels. To help you start exercising here are a couple of tips:

  • Stretch to cool down, not warm-up, and do short bursts of exercise, not long stretches.
  • It is important to start slowly when beginning an exercise program and avoid pushing into stronger pain. It is often useful to use the 0-10 scale to monitor your pain levels while exercising. A copy of this scale can be found using the following link. https://drive.google.com/file/d/18JgR5demenHGb9zE5wVM4tW4S5dLbu5M/view
  • If pain levels increase by more than 2 points from the baseline you should stop and modify that exercise, to ensure that you do not cause a flare-up of your pain.

If you suffer from chronic pain and would like to get started with an exercise program, our Accredited Exercise Physiologist is the perfect person to help you. They will sit down for an assessment with you and come up with a tailored program to help you achieve your functional goals. You can call us 0419 159 903 or email us at contact@tuckerstrengthperformance.com.au for more information on our services.

For more of our blog topics please visit www.tuckerstrengthperformance.com.au/blog